BROSSARD – In today’s notebook, Max Pacioretty dishes on the art of beating Henrik Lundqvist and the postseason grind, and Michel Therrien makes some moves up front.
Dethroning King Henrik: It’s safe to say Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist was the difference-maker in Game 2 on Monday night at the Bell Centre. The 32-year-old netminder turned aside 40 shots to register his league-leading 10th victory of the 2014 playoffs, pacing Alain Vigneault’s contingent to a 2-0 series lead.
Through the early stages of the Eastern Conference Finals, Lundqvist hasn’t given the Canadiens much to work with. Michel Therrien’s troops have beaten the 2011-12 Vezina Trophy winner just three times in two games, struggling to find ways to light the lamp. If the Habs hope to climb back into the series, they know full well that rattling the Swedish netminder is a top priority.
“We want to make life difficult for Henrik. He played great in Game 2, so did the Rangers as a whole. We wish we could’ve put more up on the board. We’ve got to make life just a little bit more difficult for him, and make sure he doesn’t see the puck. We need to bear down on second and third chances,” offered Max Pacioretty, who was the lone Hab to beat Lundqvist in Game 2 with his fourth goal of the playoffs.
That’s easier said than done against a goaltender who is riding a five-game winning streak during which he’s given up more than one goal in a single tilt on one occasion. Lundqvist also just happens to lead the league with a .934 save percentage and sits second with a 1.93 GAA in 16 games.
Nevertheless, the Canadiens insist there’s no secret to turning things around in the goal-scoring department.
“It’s all about taking away his eyes and getting second and third chances. No goalie can be great if he can’t see the puck, so we need to take away his eyes and make it difficult for him,” stressed Pacioretty, who leads the Habs with 47 shots thus far during the postseason. “We did a decent job of that, and obviously he played a great game. But, we obviously have a big task now to take away his eyes and take away his confidence. We hope to do that in Game 3 on Thursday night.”
Body Break: After seven exhibition games, 82 tilts during the regular season and 13 playoff games, rest is a luxury players welcome with a smile – especially when they’re about to play one of their biggest games of the year. That’s why the Canadiens welcomed the two-day break between games 2 and 3 in their series against the Rangers with open arms.
While for some players time away from the rink was the perfect opportunity to spend time with family or take their minds off hockey for a few hours, for others it was all about healing or avoiding illness.
“Based on the way I was feeling this morning, I don’t think I would’ve been able to play tonight,” explained Max Pacioretty, who took advantage of a day off on Tuesday to rest and relax before returning to practice on Wednesday morning in Brossard. “I’m happy with the schedule right now. It really allows us to give a little bit extra at the end of a game or to have optional practices. I enjoy the extra rest. My body definitely needed it. ”
A Sign of Things to Come: Head coach Michel Therrien tweaked his lines at practice on Wednesday morning. During his post-practice press conference, however, the Canadiens bench boss insisted that his lineup for Game 3 had yet to be determined. Nevertheless, the changes Therrien featured at practice were rather intriguing. Thomas Vanek was paired with Brandon Prust and Daniel Briere, while Tomas Plekanec had a new winger by his side.
“The Plekanec line has to give us more. I’m ready to keep a few line combinations together, as long as I see something good out of them. Sometimes, the results you’re looking for aren’t there, but the chances are,” mentioned Therrien, who elected to add Alex Galchenyuk to the Plekanec-Gionta combination at practice. “When nothing’s happening, you come to a point where decisions need to be made. That’s the reason why a coach makes line changes. We don’t only judge a line’s effectiveness in terms of goals and assists. If I see that players are getting chances, it’s a good thing. If the opposite is true, it’s time to switch things up. The hope is that those moves will yield results.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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